What to Superset with Bulgarian Split Squats?

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
September 28, 2022

Structuring workouts to be able to do more in a limited amount of time not only saves time but also packs other benefits, such as increasing muscle volume and endurance. Supersets effectively do this by shortening the rest period between sets of two different exercises.

The Bulgarian split squat is a single-leg squat that engages multiple major muscle groups with emphasis on the quadriceps femoris and gluteal muscles. Depending on the lifter’s goal, it can be superset with hip thrusts, glute bridges, and donkey kicks, among others.

It is imperative to know the goal for which any exercise is done to be able to perform and structure individual workouts properly. Discussing each type of superset will help with choosing which exercises to superset with Bulgarian split squats to achieve individual goals and maximize gains.

What is a Superset?

A superset is a form of strength training wherein 2 different exercises are performed back to back and will be given the same rest period as when a single exercise is done. This can be done by exercising two different quadrants of the upper extremity and vice versa, or one upper extremity workout followed by one lower extremity workout.

This allows for the same amount of rest period even when doubling the amount of work done, which improves the efficiency of the exercisers as well as maximizes the time spent in the gym.

What is the Bulgarian Split Squat?

A Bulgarian split squat is a variation of the squat that only uses one leg at a time while doing the exercise. This exercise mainly focuses on the strengthening of the quadriceps femoris and gluteal muscles, but it also includes working the hamstrings, calves, and the adductors.

bulgarian split squat

The activity is performed by placing one leg behind the individual and elevating it with the use of a stool, chair, or box. The height of the object used for the hind leg must not be so high that it disrupts the individual’s balance. Preferably, the height should be at the level of the knee.

To begin, the feet should be kept shoulder-width apart, the core muscles engaged, and the shoulders rolled back to secure proper posture. Bend forward towards the waist as the front leg is lunged by bending the knee. Once this is done, extend the knee and hips again to complete the exercise. 

Types of Supersets to Use for Bulgarian Split Squats

For Bulgarian split squats, 3 types of supersets can be utilized: pre-fatigue, post-fatigue, and compound. Each type of superset differs from one another in sequence or how it is performed, depending on whether you want to focus on one muscle or a larger group.

Knowing how to perform each type and being able to distinguish how each type differs from the other helps the individual properly achieve their goal. It would also assist in exploring what other exercises to superset Bulgarian split squats with.

Pre-fatigue

A pre-fatigue superset is a process of coupling two different workouts together, where the first workout is an isolation exercise wherein only one muscle will be fatigued. This is a preparation of some sort for the next workout, which will be a compound exercise that works multiple groups of muscles at the same time.

This is done so that the muscle that was pre-fatigued in the first workout will stand out and the individual will have the ability to focus more on that muscle. The downside is that after doing the isolation workout, the individual might not be able to lift the same or a heavier weight during the compound workout.

As a compound exercise, Bulgarian split squats follow the isolation exercises below to achieve a pre-fatigue superset.

Post-fatigue

A post-fatigue workout is just the opposite of pre-fatigue. A compound workout is first performed before moving on to an isolation workout. The advantage of this compared to the pre-fatigue workout is that it allows for full stimulation of the muscles and the capability to still lift the same amount or increased weight throughout the process.

To be able to perform post-fatigue workouts, the individual must be an experienced lifter, capable of proper form, must have a good diet, and must have a good balance of lean body mass.

Bulgarian split squats must first be performed and followed by the isolation exercise to achieve a post-fatigue workout. The isolation exercises listed below can be used for both post-fatigue and pre-fatigue supersets.

Pre and Post-fatigue Exercises to Superset with Bulgarian Split Squats

1. Donkey Kicks

The donkey kick exercise focuses on working the glutes. This is done without the need for any equipment and is used to tighten and increase the tone of the glutes. The exercise also engages the core, which will assist the individual in preparation for progressing into other exercises.

donkey kicks

To perform, the individual should get down on all fours in a quadruped position. The hands must be aligned just under the shoulders while the knees are under the hips as well. Ensure that the back is flat and the chin tucked slightly.

The individual then must engage the core muscles and, at the same time, avoid rounding of the spine. Then the individual begins to kick one leg up, keeping a 90-degree angle up to a height before the back begins to arch or before the hips rotate. Return the leg to the starting position, then repeat on the other side to complete a set.

2. Reverse Frog Hyperextension

Another isolation exercise that can be superset with the Bulgarian split squats is the reverse frog hyperextension. The activity targets the hip extensors, specifically the gluteal muscles as the knees are bent, thus inactivating the hamstrings as synergists to the movement.

frog reverse hyperextension

To perform a reverse frog hyperextension, the individual lies prone on a flat bench with the hips on the end and the legs hanging off the edge. The bench is hugged to gain stability, and the hips are abducted so the knees are flared outward and the soles of the feet are pushed together.

The soles of the feet are kept together as the feet are lifted as high as they can. At the top of the movement, the position is held for a second or two before slowly lowering the legs to the starting position. The movement is repeated until a set is completed.

3. Seated Hip Abduction

Seated hip abductions may be performed with the use of a machine or resistance bands. Either way, it isolates and works the gluteal muscles.

To perform seated hip abductions with a machine, the individual sits on the machine and rests the lateral thigh against the pads. The lever, which is usually situated at the side, is pulled so the legs are allowed to come together. The lever is then released to lock the pads in place, and this becomes the starting position.

seated hip abduction

The movement begins by pushing against the pads until the hips are fully abducted. At the end of the movement, the position is held for about two seconds before slowly adducting the hips to return to the starting position. The movement is repeated until a set is completed.

The exercise may still be done without a machine through the use of resistance bands. As the individual is seated, a resistance band is wrapped around both thighs, just above the knee level. The knees are then pushed as wide apart as possible. The position is held for two seconds before slowly letting both legs come together in a slow, controlled manner.

seated band hip abduction

4. Leg Extension

Leg extensions are usually done with the use of a lever machine, most of which are also used to perform leg curls. Leg extensions are performed by sitting on the machine with the shins tucked under the padded bar. The padded bar is then raised by extending the knees.

leg extension machine

This exercise primarily engages the muscles at the front of the thigh, particularly the rectus femoris and vastus muscles. Upon contracting these muscles to raise the bar, the position is held for about two seconds before an eccentric contraction occurs to slowly lower the bar to the starting position.

Compound Superset Exercises

A compound superset makes use of two compound exercises to be done that focus on the same muscle groups; this differs from both the pre-fatigue and post-fatigue supersets, as there are no isolation exercises that occur in this type.

An example would be doing Bulgarian split squats and then moving over to do the good morning exercise. Both exercises work on the same muscle groups such as the glutes, hamstrings, and quads; the good morning may differ a bit as it also works on the muscles of the hip flexors and abductors.

Because both activities are compound exercises, it does not matter which exercise goes first. The sequence of the superset will rely on the individual’s discretion.

1. Good Mornings

The good morning is a weightlifting exercise that targets the hamstrings, glutes, back, and core muscles. It involves the use of a barbell, but beginners may opt to start without weights.

Performing the good morning exercise requires the lifter to stand with their feet shoulder-width apart and their knees slightly bent. A barbell of appropriate weight is placed near the shoulders; the bar rests on the trapezius muscle.

barbell good morning

In the standing position, the back and the core muscles are braced as the hips are hinged to send the hips backward and the torso forward. A stretch is usually felt at the hamstrings or the beginning of the rounding of the back signals the end of the movement. This places the torso nearly parallel to the ground.

Drive through the legs while thrusting the hips forward, using the hamstrings to stand upright and return to the starting position. The glutes are then squeezed upon finishing the motion.

2. Barbell Hip Thrusts

The barbell hip thrust is a compound exercise that primarily targets the glutes but also enhances the core, quadriceps femoris, adductors, hamstrings, and calf muscles. It is performed with the use of a barbell and a bench to perform a glute bridge.

barbell hip thrust

To begin, the person sits on the floor with their knees bent, their backs against a bench, and a barbell at their hips. The barbell should be comfortably placed on the hip crease before elevating the hip by forcing the feet into the ground and pulling the back towards the bench.

The torso must be parallel to the ground at the top of the movement, with the knees flexed at about a 90-degree angle. As the lifter leans back to form a straight line from the hips to the torso, the scapula (shoulder blades) should be solid on the bench. Then, the hips are lowered in a slow and controlled manner to return to the starting position.

Final Thoughts

Bulgarian split squats can give more muscle gains compared to a normal squat, but this can be pushed to another level by doing supersets with Bulgarian split squats paired with other exercises or loading.

A Bulgarian split squat superset helps improve the strength, size, and endurance of the leg muscles such as the quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, and glutes. 

Furthermore, doing a superset with Bulgarian split squats and other exercises assists in shortening the workouts or finishing them faster by giving the ability to complete two exercises at the same time rather than doing them one by one and having the same length of rest periods in between sets.

References

1. Halperin, I., Chapman, D. W., & Behm, D. G. (2015). Non-local muscle fatigue: effects and possible mechanisms. In European Journal of Applied Physiology (Vol. 115, Issue 10, pp. 2031–2048). Springer Verlag. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3249-y

2. Mackey ER, Riemann BL. Biomechanical Differences Between the Bulgarian Split-Squat and Back Squat. Int J Exerc Sci. 2021 Apr 1;14(1):533-543. PMID: 34055144; PMCID: PMC8136570.

3. Weakley, Jonathon & Till, Kevin & Read, Dale & Roe, Gregory & Darrall-Jones, Josh & Phibbs, Padraic & Jones, Ben. (2017). The effects of traditional, superset, and tri-set resistance training structures on perceived intensity and physiological responses. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 117. 10.1007/s00421-017-3680-3.

4. Robbins, D. W., Young, W. B., Behm, D. G., & Payne, W. R. (2010). Agonist-antagonist paired set resistance training: A brief review. In Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Vol. 24, Issue 10, pp. 2873–2882). J Strength Cond Res. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181f00bfc

5. Ciccone, A. B., Brown, L. E., Coburn, J. W., & Galpin, A. J. (2014). Effects of traditional vs. alternating whole-body strength training on squat performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(9), 2569–2577. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000000586

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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